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Does Diabetes Cause Dry Eyes?

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An elderly woman with diabetes had her eyes with protective cover after cataract surgery

Diabetes and eyesight are closely linked. Diabetes and chronically high blood glucose (blood sugar) can cause various eye complications, including cataracts and glaucoma.

What you may not know is that diabetes can significantly increase your risk of developing dry eye disease. More than half of all those with diabetes suffer from dry eyes. The good news is that if you have diabetes and dry eyes, there are many things you can do to help protect your vision and reduce dry eye symptoms.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye occurs when a person’s tears don’t lubricate and nourish their eyes, causing discomfort, a gritty feeling, and irritation. This may appear to be a minor inconvenience, but untreated chronic dry eyes can cause permanent eye damage.

To keep their moisture, healthy eyes require regular tear production. Crying causes more tears to be produced, and you’ve probably noticed your eyes watering excessively when something bothers them. Tears are composed of 3 components:

  • Water
  • Oil
  • Mucus

These layers work together to keep the surface of your eyes clear, smooth, and able to see clearly. When you don’t produce enough tears, it can lead to dry eye disease.

How Does Diabetes Impact Dry Eyes?

Diabetes has been identified as one of the top risk factors for developing dry eye syndrome. Up to 33% of people with diabetes experience dry eye disease, and the risk of developing dry eye increases the higher blood sugar levels are over time.

Increased blood sugar levels can also have an impact on the health of the cornea (the frontmost surface of your eye), and damage the lacrimal glands that are responsible for producing the water content of the tears.

Many people who suffer from dry eyes caused by diabetes find that maintaining healthy blood sugar levels helps them, paired with other available dry eye relief methods.

An old woman is using a warm compress on her eyes to relieve dry eyes,

How to Relieve Dry Eye Symptoms

Previous research from 2016 found no statistically significant differences in treatment for dry eye patients with and without diabetes.

If you have diabetes, your eye doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to protect your eyes against high blood sugar levels. It is recommended you maintain annual eye exams to check for changes in your vision and eye health

Warm Compresses or Eye Masks

Using warm compresses or eye masks on the eyes can help relieve dry eye symptoms. The warmth of the compress helps to open the meibomian glands, improving oil gland function, increasing oil flow into the eyes, stabilizing the tear film, and slowing tear evaporation.

After you remove the warm compress, your eyes can expel debris and bacteria more efficiently, helping them stay healthy and clear.

Warm compresses may be recommended for daily use to help relieve dry eye symptoms, they may also work well when combined with artificial tears eye drops.

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears, or eye drops, may be sufficient to relieve mild to moderate dry eye symptoms. To keep your eyes moist, you may need to apply artificial tears several times throughout the day.

Many types of artificial tears are available over the counter. Your optometrist can help determine what type of artificial tears or eye drops may work best for you before you purchase them.

Prescription Medications

Antibiotics can help reduce inflammation in your eyelids and increase tear production. Your doctor may advise you to take antibiotics or use antibiotic eye drops. There are several FDA-approved prescription medications available:

Punctal Plugs

To help keep tears in your eyes for longer, your optometrist can insert punctal plugs—tiny collagen or silicone plugs that are inserted into the tear ducts to prevent your tears from draining as quickly. Punctal plugs can be temporary or long lasting.

Treat Dry Eyes at The Eye Gallery

Diabetes is a chronic disease that can cause a variety of complications, including dry eyes. Dry eye, if left untreated, can lead to vision problems.

If you’re looking for a way to treat your dry eyes, book an appointment for dry eye therapy at The Eye Gallery, we offer a variety of treatments that can help reduce your symptoms.

Written by Dr. Megan Baldwin

As a Kansas native (born and raised in Kingman), Dr. Baldwin is thrilled to practice what she loves so close to home. She can’t imagine anything better than to care for her community and build strong ties with new friends and colleagues.

When She’s not in the office caring for her patients, Dr. Baldwin enjoys making memories with her husband, Aaron, and two sweet kids, Parker and Stella! You’ll often find her playing piano, hosting her friends and family in her home, or out for a run. Dr. Baldwin and her husband enjoy traveling to warm places and recently became open-water scuba diver certified!

She chose eye care as her career because Dr. Baldwin has always wanted to help people. The quality of care she provides is incredibly important to her. In an age where doctors spend just a few minutes with their patients, she is proud to give her patients the time and diligence they deserve. More than to simply “see” you, Dr. Baldwin wants to learn more about you and how she can best serve your needs. Your relationship matters.

Dr. Baldwin invites you to make an appointment for yourself or your children, whether you have an eye concern or are simply seeking an updated corrective lens prescription. She will always do her best to provide you the best eye care available anywhere in Wichita.

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • Member, Kansas Optometric Association (KOA)
  • Member, American Optometric Association (AOA)
  • Member, Business Networking International (BNI)


  • Bachelor of Science (chemistry) – Bethel College, 2007
  • Doctor of Optometry – Northeastern State University, Oklahoma College of Optometry, 2011
    • Graduated Magna Cum Laude
    • Member of the Beta Sigma Kappa honor society
    • Presented with “Outstanding Clinician in Ocular Disease” award
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